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Taken For A Ride: CBS4 Investigation Finds Some Taxis Routinely Overcharging

By Brian Maass

DENVER (CBS4) - A CBS4 Investigation has found some Denver cab drivers routinely overcharging travelers going between Denver International Airport and downtown Denver.

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"I believe it's intentional," said Larry Horowitz, a concierge at a downtown Denver hotel.

Horowitz said he has been seeing for years what the CBS4 Investigation found, "These guys are playing games and it's not right. They're taking advantage of people rushing. They're being overcharged."

Colorado Public Utilities commission rules dictate only flat rate charges between downtown Denver and DIA, along with trips between the airport and the Denver Tech Center and between Boulder and DIA. From the airport to the downtown Denver zone is supposed to be about $56, per PUC rules.

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However, CBS4 found cab drivers routinely disregarding the flat rate rules and running their meters, resulting in higher charges for travelers.

Pierre Boyer touched down at DIA last month and grabbed a taxi for a downtown hotel. Although the flat rate charge was supposed to be $56, his cab driver ran the meter and charged Boyer $60. Not knowing any better, Boyer added a $12 tip.

When he was told the driver had overcharged him, Boyer said "It's not great."

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Another man who traveled from DIA to a downtown hotel by cab was charged $63. For the trip. He told CBS4 he had no idea it was supposed to be a flat rate of $56.

"You know someone who doesn't understand or know the going rate, it's easy to get caught by that," said the traveler.

When CBS4 caught a cab from a hotel at 17th and California to DIA, the driver ran the meter and charged our CBS4 producer $66. Per state regulations, the flat fee was supposed to be about $51, allowing for a DIA gate fee.

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"We hear it all the time," said Horowitz. "A person comes to town and they start off by being ripped off. That's wrong,"

He said some hotel guests have been charged $80. Or more for what is supposed to be a $56 ride.

CBS4 shared its findings with Terry Bote, a spokesperson for the Colorado Public Utilities Commission. He said the flat rate system has been in place for about 20 years.

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CBS4's Brian Maass interviews Terry Bote, a spokesperson for the Colorado Public Utilities Commission. (credit: CBS)

"If a taxi driver is using a meter in that situation, he is doing it illegally," said Bote. "It tells me it's happening more frequently than we hear, probably. What it tells me is there are drivers out there disregarding flat rates."

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He pointed out its hard for cab drivers to plead ignorance since they are required to have the flat rate rules posted in their cabs.

Bote said if the PUC catches a cab driver overcharging up to $25, the penalty is a $275 fine. An overcharge of up to $50 can result in a penalty of up to $550.

Bote said consumers who do not receive the flat rate should first contact the cab company and be able to provide the cab number and how much they paid. If the taxi company in question does not refund their money, travelers should then contact the PUC which will look into the complaint.

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Here are the three zones which have flat rates, their boundaries, and the amount cab drivers are allowed to charge between DIA and these three zones:

Total Charges for Transportation to and from Denver International Airport.
Taxicab carriers authorized to provide service to or from any portion of the zones listed in this rule shall be subject to all the provisions of this rule.
(a) The total charge established pursuant to this rule shall be the only authorized taxicab rates for service between points in the zones described by this rule, on the one hand, and DIA, on the other hand. These charges shall be the rates in effect for every taxicab carrier subject to this rule.
(b) Taxicab drivers shall inform passengers of the total charge prior to commencing the trip.
(c) Rates for taxicab service between a defined zone and DIA.
(I) Taxicab carriers shall charge the rates permitted by this rule for service between DIA and the zones defined below. Taxicab carriers providing service between DIA and the zones listed in this rule shall not charge live meter rates, (including any charge for mileage, waiting time, and traffic delay). Only as specifically authorized below, taxicab carriers providing service between DIA and the zones listed in this rule may charge airport access fees or for additional passengers in one traveling party.
(II) The total charge between DIA and any point within a defined zone shall be the zone rate, plus any applicable airport access fee, plus any applicable per drop fee.
(III) Zone A: The zone rate for transportation between DIA and any point in Zone A shall be $51.00.
(IV) Zone B: The zone rate for transportation between DIA and any point in Zone B shall be $57.00.
(V) Zone C: The zone rate for transportation between DIA and any point in Zone C shall be $84.00.
(VI) Access fees as established by DIA for the use of its facilities for one trip levied upon the taxicab.
(VII) A drop fee of $5.00 may be charged for each additional drop within a zone required by members of one traveling party.Page 50 CODE OF COLORADO REGULATIONS 4 CCR 723-6

CBS4 Investigator Brian Maass has been with the station more than 30 years uncovering waste, fraud and corruption. Follow him on Twitter @Briancbs4.

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